Dealing Productively with Anxiety 

Do you ever get anxious about tasks, commitments, or appointments? How about finances? How about your family’s safety, your career success, your kids’ success? How about existential crises like “Am I doing the right thing with my life?”? 

Of course, we all struggle with different forms of anxiety every day. But how can we deal with it more productively? 

First, understand that anxiety can be a good thing. Think of it on a bell curve. The optimal amount is actually in the middle. Too little, and you’re unmotivated. Too much, and you can quickly tip into helplessness and depression (I’m being very serious, by the way). But that sweet spot in the middle gets us out of bed each morning (even if it comes after a few alarms…), keeps us motivated to do good work, and keeps us from overextending ourselves too much. 

To get to the sweet spot, I’ve found nothing more useful than asking the two fundamental “Getting Things Done” productivity questions: 

  • What outcome am I trying to achieve? 
  • What is the next physical, visible action I can take to move closer to that outcome? 

 These two simple questions almost always provide the impetus needed to stop worrying and get moving. When the outcome is clear, the big picture keeps us motivated and on track. When we break that outcome down to the literal next action (defined by words like “call”, “talk to”, “email”, “go to”…), we break down the walls of resistance that keep us paralyzed by indecision and inaction. 

When you’re anxious and worried, the fastest way to turn your mind off is to ask these two questions. Once you answer them, the path forward should be much clearer and more manageable. 


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